Sunday, May 17, 2015

What's the difference between the Unzoo Movement and the other stuff like unstructured natural movement?

That was a question from Max of Movement Unleashed in response to an earlier blog post from me on An Updated Unzoo Movement Template. I said I might do another post to expand on this, so here it is...cheers Max.
(by the way, I fully acknowledge that Parkour already use a mixed method approach to some degree - for instance APK sessions range from classic push up conditioning to structured movement sessions, to less structured exploratory or creativity sessions)

The earlier post described how I was experimenting with different training methodologies in an effort to cover a broader spectrum of general preparedness fitness and experiences. I will clarify the differences a bit more here.

I currently do a weekly rotate of three different training methodologies. The first is Classical Functional Fitness. This is a pretty loose term in the fitness industry but I am referring to compound movements as opposed to isolated body part exercises such as bicep curls. This is stuff like CrossFit, boot camp training, classic old school strength and conditioning (S&C) training. It includes movements such as press ups, burpees, kettlebell swings, pull ups and so on. Here's some examples from CrossFit:
 And here's a classic CrossFit body weight workout example:

5 pull ups
10 push ups
15 squats

as many rounds as possible in 20 minutes

In my opinion these are industrialised movements*  that are great as a way to focus on pure strength and conditioning. They are simple movements that are relatively easy to learn and perform and are therefore safe to use when engaging high intensity training. The strength and conditioning from this type of training will contribute to some degree of "Effective movement" in that it can allow you to complete a movement not trained for - a form of General Physical Preparedness or GPP. In a nutshell what I mean here is that I can get really good at pull ups and that might help me perform some more applied climbing movements effectively as in "I can do it", but it may not be efficient movement. So unless I engage in true natural movement, I am likely to be fit but a bit clumsy.

(*by industrialised I mean it's not natural human movement in terms of either the actual movement, the repetition volume, or the use of nature)

And then there's Unzoo Movement, which is just the name for my brand of Natural Movement training. I should have called this method Structured Natural Movement.

My version is not hugely different from other natural movement practitioners except I embrace only training outside (huge benefits people - no compromise!), and have an eclectic and exploratory/experimental approach to training. So even though I practice natural human movement,  I will borrow ideas from outside of that discipline and play around with methods, pretty much like I am doing here. Natural Movement training takes you from just doing effective movement to doing efficient movement. To carry on the example above, I might not actually be that great at high intensity pull up training, but be well versed in more complex climbing techniques and be able to climb more efficiently than a classic S&C practitioner.

Here's a standard MovNat MOD
Warm Up Mobility – 3 rounds
Rotational Rocking - clockwise x3
Rotational Rocking - counterclockwise x3
Forward Roll x3

Forward Rolls x20 - begin to roll faster, and from a taller position

Combo - 3 rounds
Rotational Swing Throw and Catch x6 - each side - 15lb object
Leg Swing Jump - 5ft - 2x2ft target
Rotational Rocking - 1 circle each direction
Chest Throw and Catch x12 - 25lbs

And here's a sample of an Unzoo Movement week; basically the same as MovNat but a bit more structured around the full movement-energy spectrum of speed, learning & practicing body movements (internal freedom), combining movements for flow and transition, adaptive movement to environmental/situational context (external freedom) and movement volume (stamina & mental toughness).

You can see that the types of movement engaged are very different from the standard S&C movements, and this practice leads to a more complex set of movement skills that are geared to more efficient natural movement patterns (employing the SAID principle of specific adaptation to imposed demands).

In the end I am trying to develop what Rafe Kelly calls "Movement Aliveness".
 aliveness is about being able to deal with more variables and to step outside of the preplanned and and be able to adapt, this means the capacity to improvise.

For that, it seems the best methodology is unstructured training in nature. But it needs the other two methods as building blocks.

Here's a bunch of quotes from Rafe's work that have influenced my thinking in this area:
  Essentially, complexity translates better to simplicity rather than vice-versa. The natural environment is much more complex. Movement as a paradigm is still incomplete without nature. Our bodies and our capacity did not evolve for flat surfaces, or simplified tools like barbells or even rings. We are meant to move over terrain, to move diverse objects, to move in coordination or competition with other living things.

Being a mover might give you patterns and attributes, but can you express them in broad contexts? Is your skin robust to sun, wind, rain, snow and sand? Can you swim in cold water, can you sprint sand, scree, or wet mossy rocks? Can your crawls solve passing under fallen logs or moving through dense tree branches? Can your jumping, and swinging, patterns deal with the pitch and sway of tree limbs? Go play outside. Move like a human.

Training is about increasing your tolerances, expanding the differences between the most you can do and the least, this goes far beyond the most force a muscle can produce, it goes into the motor patterns your nervous system can create and control and the situations you can apply movement too, it dealing with wet, dry, slippery, abrasive, cold, hot, dark, light, fear, anger, frustration, vertigo and claustrophobia. It’s balancing on a log barefoot while waves smash you and being and finding stillness. It’s being able to know if you can make a jump from a slanted tree branch under another overhanging branch to a final branch which will pitch and yaw when you land on it. What are the variables you can solve, what are your tolerances. And the secret is the things that were once unpleasant become joyous when

I place a big emphasis on what I call exploratory movement play in my training, prior to attempting high intensity or complexity movement I like to explore a space at a gentle pace, looking for flow and interesting movement. This gets my body warm, develops a kinesthetic map of the areas I plan to train in and gets my creativity going, it also develops improvisational ability which I find many movers lack. In order to truly claim mastery of a skill set you need to be able to express it in improvisation. Life is improv - until you can improv your skills are not alive. They move inside the circle of what you can do.

 And here's another piece on the subject from a different author:

In Defense of “Play” – Why All Adults Need Unstructured Practice
Training doesn’t always have to be structured and goal-oriented to yield results.We tend to get caught up in “getting the skill” or “getting a good workout,” and while those goals have their place, if we never take the time to explore movement without any specific goals in mind, we lose out on a sense of play and freedom. Unlike the structured approach we generally associate with formal exercise, play is a way to explore movement without any structure at all, much like we did as kids – figuring out all manner of possibilities for maneuvering ourselves from point A to point B.
I think each method is good and should be treated as different and part of the total. Classic functional movement strength & conditioning can feed your natural movement capacity. Here's another Rafe quote in support of this:
The formal practices, the joint integrity work, the barbell and gymnastics strength, traditional sprint and plyometric work these are valuable tools, bridges back to normal human capacities or even means to amplify specific aspects but if you don't go out and move like a human if you don't move your body through nature, your always missing part of your full movement capacity.
There was another quote from Rafe (which I can't find ) that paid homage to the role of Olympic lifting in generating bigger parkour jumps. And of course it's easy to criticise functional movement S&C as unnatural and inefficient, but sometimes that's actually exactly what you want! A burpee may be an industrialised movement, but its a fantastic conditioning tool. An American style kettlebell swing is specifically designed to generate more work than the more traditional Russian swing.

Structured natural movement sessions allow goal focused human movement in a natural context. Then going unstructured takes it to the next level.

Currently I am doing this by rotating the three methods each week. It's early days, but initially to me it seems that the weekly rotation approach is perhaps too long in each method (unless you were developing a specific aspect maybe).

So my next approach might be this; apply a variation of the theoretical template of the CrossFit training schedule to allow for better integration of the methods. Here's the CrossFit template:

 And here's my variation for a movement template:

"Other" in this schedule refers to other activity types, rest, rehab, play, sport, physical labour, epic adventures....

 In this version I cover the energy spectrum over the week, plus internal and external freedom, and vary the combination of training methodologies within the week.Who knows? It could be a really bad idea, but I will explore it and find out if I get closer to movement aliveness.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Updated Unzoo Movement Template.

Here's a little update on how my  Unzoo Movement training has developed so far. The overall theme appears to be my usual trick of synthesis - combining dichotomies to broaden the spectrum, to develop true general physical preparedness and variety of experience. 

The basis of my training template stems from Mark Sissons Primal Fitness Blueprint: lift heavy, sprint efforts, and long duration effort each week. 
Additional  to that is a MovNat influence with a session on building movement, and adaptive movement. 

My new development has been to create a weekly rotation of three themes: 
1. Classic functional fitness. This includes American Parkour sessions, CrossFit Wods. ( could add others here: gymnastics, martial arts)
2. Unzoo Movement. 
3. Unstructured Natural Movement. 

Here's my reasoning; Be open and eclectic. There has been a bit of focus recently from the natural movement community on the benefits of exposure to environmental discomfort. CrossFit on the other hand has always preached the mantra of becoming comfortable with discomfort. Why not both? I have seen CrossFitters who can't handle outdoor conditions, and MovNatters who can't handle intensity. I have found a similar pattern in myself where doing a functional fitness session will wreck me because I have only been engaging in movement efficiency. Go full spectrum for both. 

An extension of this idea comes from having practiced a bit of parkour recently. Don't just stick to natural environments. Roll on concrete! It's harder and forgives bad technique much less than grass.   Yes, training outdoors in a natural environment is good for you, but why not urban environments too?  Expand your environmental contexts to test and develop your general physical competency and adaptiveness. 

But wait! There's more. Thanks to Rafe Kelly's teachings from I have further embraced structure vs unstructured experience. It's really the holy grail of movement experience. Taking yourself into the outdoors and engaging in unstructured movement is the pinnacle of combining environmental and situational complexity for mind and body benefit. 

So there's quite a lot there, all good but how can you do it all? You can't easily, so you have to share the time. For me I like to rotate each week from classic functional fitness, to Unzoo movement (structured) to unstructured natural movement sessions. Let's see how it goes. 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Movement flashbacks anyone?

Here's a bit of a weird post. Do you get movement flashbacks? I do. And I am not the only one. So what's all this about? I dunno really but it's pretty cool.

First - just what exactly is a movement flashback? Well, it's a memory that pops up unexpectedly, usually on the same day as the event, and it's a mind-body phenomenon, and it's a positive experience. To be clear - it's not "runners high" or "flow" - both great things in their own right. Runners high typically is a physical driven response that follows a run, but it applies to any good movement session and refers to physical and mental (or more) elation following the session. Flow on the other hand is the feeling of being in the zone while in the act of movement. A movement flashback on the other hand refers to a strong memory re-occurrence of a recent previous movement session or event. Like the runners high and flow, it feels good! But it's unique in that it can occur well beyond the event.

So what about it? Well, I have never experienced it until I started natural movement training, whereas I have had my fair share of runners high and flow. Why have I never heard of movement flashbacks? And remember it's not just me, others training with me have experienced the same phenomenon. Not only that, but it only seems to happen for distinct types of movement sessions. Looking back at when it occurs, it happens whenever there is movement in a context rich environment. So we are talking here about fast work over complex obstacles, but also slow movement through complex situations. It tends to occur when running through complex terrain, jumping over complex obstacles, or climbing through complex branch networks or tricky rock configurations. I have never experienced it from sole manipulative movement modes such as lifting, carrying and throwing (yet).

What does it mean? I dunno, that's why I am blogging it. I have done some quick research on it and here's my gist of things:

It's either movement as reward, or movement as learning. Or something else entirely!

Here's some links I saved that covers some of the considerations I seem to be making:








Yep - it's another rabbit hole, and I haven't the time to burrow down into it today. Let's make a quick jump to the bottom now and worry about the truth later! How about movement as reward?  Either it's an evolutionary response universal across animals that rewards specific movement patterns that enhances survival chances. Perhaps movement through a complex environment is good because it is likely to be a more fruitful scenario than say, walking though a desert. Or it may be that this kind of movement through complex and stimuli rich environments is simply a good survival pattern in it's own right.

My second thought, and perhaps more realistic, it about the movement & learning link. Is this simply a learning processing response related to complex movement situation? I dunno. You could argue that the snatch or clean is a complex movement, but there is no environmental interaction. These movement flashbacks only occur in combination with complex environmental interaction with movement (fast or slow).

Why it this important anyway? First - it's cool! Second, it's a good motivator to get up and train in the morning. Third, it may be an indicator that I am learning more. And forth, there might be some cool ways to apply this phenomenon as both a motivator and learning tool.It could revolutionise the nature and role of PE at school! Or at work for that matter.

So, has anyone else experienced this, or come across research covering this area? Let me know, and if anyone wants to see if they can get a movement flashback, drop me a line if you need any tips! It's a great day if you can get flow, a runners high, and a movement flashback before lunch!